I'm really sorry, but I did not vote for a candidate for president. Whatever bad comes of this election, I guess you can blame it on me. But I don't think I'm alone.
I couldn't vote for Romney. He is a guy who made money destroying America. He started a firm whose only purpose was to buy other companies and squeeze them. It had a nice name, dividend recapitalization, and like the shell game it was, you had to watch closely or you'd be broke before you figured it out. Say you are the We Meant Well Company, on hard times, but you still make things, employ people and have assets like land and machinery. A venture firm comes along, figures the We Meant Well Company is worth $100 million. The firm invests, say, $10 million of its own money and buys the rest with money borrowed against the value of the We Meant Well Company as collateral.
BANG! The We Meant Well Company now is in debt to who-knows-who for $90 million. The venture firm, which owns it based on the borrowed money, starts having the We Meant Well Company pay it out a management fee while at the same time laying off workers to raise the cash for the fee. The venture ain't done, though. It has the We Meant Well Company issue stock to the venture firm, then declare a dividend to be paid to itself. Where's that dividend money come from? More debt for the corporate entity of the We Meant Well Company. If the We Meant Well Company's managers and board members start complaining, well, that venture firm simply cuts them in on the deal, with bonuses and buyouts and severance packages your dad never got. It is like using someone else's credit card for a cash advance for yourself.
Once the vultures are done picking the bones, the We Meant Well Company dies in bankruptcy. The bank that made the initial loans loses money, sure, but passes that on as a cost of business risk to its own customers if the government isn't rushing in with a bailout to protect the economy or some such too-big-to-fail bull. The government actually incentivizes this kind of deal making. The federal tax code allows the venture company to deduct their debt interest, so they pay little to no tax, all supposedly to encourage them to invest more in this sleazy cycle while pretending to create jobs. Romney helped change us from a place that made things -- radiators, cash registers, gaskets, ball bearings, TVs -- into a place that just makes deals. Making things creates jobs and jobs create broad prosperity. Making deals just creates wealth for the dealers.
As for Obama, I cannot vote for someone who institutionalized the killing of American citizens based on his decision that they must die by drone (as terrorists, or whatever else is justified), and then rationalized it as "justice being done." I voted for him in 2008 in large part because he said he opposed indefinite detention without trial and would close Guantanamo. He did not, and expanded the secret national security state. He never sought resolution about America's horrific policy of torture, never mind justice. Bradley Manning still has not had a trial. Obama makes war around the world in an ever-expanding ring of fire.
Such things matter. If you read the dialogue among the Founders, one of the things they feared most for the nation was an omnipotent leader, a king they said because they did not know the word dictator. A president who kills on his own decisions cannot be my America. The potential damage to the social agenda of another Republican president bothers the hell out of me, though at the same time I am reminded that Obama did not seek to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act or do anything on immigration. I grew weary of arguments that said "Vote Obama so we don't get Romney." I want my vote to be an act of conscience, a measure of support and not something as weak as better than the alternative. I wish I could vote for someone.
I understand about third party candidates, but at this point that is just a feel-good-about-myself symbolic gesture, and I don't really feel good about things right now.
When I speak publicly about my book We Meant Well and the failure of reconstruction and nation building, there is usually an older man in the crowd who will bring up the successes of the Marshall Plan, and ask me why that succeeded where we failed so completely and conclusively in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are a lot of historical factors, but one of the biggest single issues is that a man like George Marshall was not in charge in Iraq and Afghanistan. Indeed, men like Marshall simply do not exist in high positions in government anymore. Instead of selfless public servants who care about our country, we instead find a government, Republicans and Democrats equally, full of self-serving men and women who exist only as appetite. They see "public service" only as a stepping stone for their own advancement, either in terms of money, power, prestige or all of the above. The most significant cause they support is their own. They are cynical about it, openly mocking the democratic process, buried in mistruths, holding allegiance more to party and self than nation, and are supported by patrons who have so, so much money already but somehow still want more. My politics is no longer about left or right anymore, it's about up and down.
So I did not vote for a presidential candidate this year, the first time I did not in the nine presidential elections I have been eligible to vote in. I never thought it would come to this. I'm sorry.
Follow Peter Van Buren on Twitter: www.twitter.com/wemeantwell